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Romance Scams: How Not to Become a Victim?

How Not to Become a Victim

Romance scams are as popular as ever. The Federal Trade Commission reports that in 2022 there were nearly 70,000 victims that lost an astounding $1.3 billion to fraudsters. Romance scams are unique in the way of being relatively easy to pull off, but the damages reach unbelievable heights. People are more likely to transfer large sums of money driven by emotion.

It’s no secret that dating apps like Tinder or Bumble are filled with fake profiles. What’s even worse is that scammers come up with new tricks and use personal data shared over social media to make them more convincing. Here’s how to identify and avoid romance scams.

A scam of being sick

This is the most common fraud scenario amounting to 24% of all romance scams. A scammer lies convincingly about being ill with a sickness that usually requires lengthy treatment. The treatment, in turn, requires continuous payments received from the victim.

In the US, a scammer pretended to receive an inheritance from a terminally ill grandmother. She tricked the victim into providing personal details, accepting the ‘inheritance’ payments, and transferring them to different accounts. In reality, the scammer took out fake loans using the victim’s name.

It’s essential to be suspicious of people asking for money. Focusing on healthcare raises sympathy points, and that’s why many fall for these scams. Usually, the lie involves being in a hospital or constantly dealing with an emergency unit, and sometimes contacting the named hospital will verify whether there is a patient by that name. Otherwise, it’s best to assume these are scams, as people do not seek medical help on dating sites.

Phishing and malware protection

Phishing is a very old hacking method that is often used to spread malware. Scammers post fraudulent backlinks in dating chats tricking the victim into clicking them. The outcomes are various. It may lead to a fake mirror site asking to input personal details, like credit card or telephone numbers. It could also download malware for future malice, for example, install a keylogger to extract user passwords.

The first line of defense is knowledge. Be particularly mindful when someone posts a backlink, especially if it happens out of the blue. Inspect the full link address before clicking it, and if you notice grammatical errors and inconsistencies, do not go there. If you feel you mistakenly clicked on a Phishing backlink, do not input any details, download attachments, and scan the device with an Antivirus afterward.

It’s highly recommendable to use additional cybersecurity software. Romance scammers often attempt to steal user passwords through spyware or social engineering.

If you use a reliable password manager, you will not have to type passwords by hand, neutralizing keyloggers. Furthermore, an encrypted password vault prevents data leaks and allows having a unique and complex password for each account.

The problem of falling in love too fast

Scammers manipulate the victim’s emotions by immediately falling in love with them. It may happen as soon as the second or third conversation, with phrases like ‘I know this may come too soon, but…’, ‘I can’t resist holding it back anymore,’ and other overly cheesy attempts.

What’s troubling is that scammers often exploit fragile circumstances. For example, romance scams increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many were locked alone in apartments for a long time and got very lonely. Scammers used it as an opportunity to exploit the situation and used love as a powerful manipulation tool.

Always remember that scammers will try to be as likable as possible. Resist the urge of hasty feelings and take it slow. After all, it’s a dating app, and there’s no need to rush anything.

Final Words: Romance Scams in 2023

Romance scams are alive and well in 2023. Just this year, a woman was scammed of $2.3 million falling in love over WhatsApp. The final lesson is to beware and be aware as scammers continue exploiting dating apps and websites using more and more sophisticated tools.

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